Diving False Bay in Cape Town, South Africa
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A guest post by Mona Schouten and photos by Martijn Schouten
Diving in False Bay, Cape Town, South Africa
False Bay is my home waters, as a dive master and a passionate free diver I found my fins in that bay! With most dive operators located in the historic naval town called Simon’s Town, the coastal drive to the shore dive location or the boat ride out to the dive site against the mountain leading to Cape point is an absolute dream! Sometimes it takes pinching myself more than once to realize that this is home.
Cold water temperatures of 11 degrees (Celsius) in the winter that escalates up to a maximum of 19 degrees during summer months can turn this little bay into an underwater game reserve of its own! It is home to tiny crustaceans and critters from colorful anemones and lobsters to the guys running the top of the food chain, the Great white shark. You can also find 7 gill cow sharks and the latest visitors, port and starboard, the Orcas, who love to come and stir the whole eco-system out of place.
Whether you are scuba certified or an avid snorkeler, Open water level one or Open water instructor, if you are up for it to brave the cold temperatures False Bay caters for anyone! In this blog post I am going to do a break down on the most popular dive sites in False Bay!
False Bay Kelp Forest
My personal favorite, a marine protected area located in Millers point that bursts with life! You can access the kelp forest by shore or by boat. With a maximum depth of 12 meters depending on the visibility you can see right down to the bottom from the surface, the magic of this forest is when you descend on a scuba dive and you look up, you are dwarfed by the kelp branches swishing and swooshing with the surge, it’s almost as if they bend down to greet you, and welcome you on your dive. This is home to the pre-historic 7 gill cow sharks, sharks that haven’t evolved since the dinosaur ages! As you look through all of the strands of kelp you will see a shadow approaching you slowly and passing you closely but gracefully only for you to realize that they have very poor eye sight and they actually can’t see you very well! When you look closely into the nooks and crannies of the forest you will see various species of smaller sharks such as the striped pyjama shark, leopard sharks, shy sharks and spotted gully sharks. The sharks are not all there is to see, you can find octopus, skates, anemones of all colors, a big diversity of fish life, abalones, and nudibrach.
The Seals of False Bay
If you are in for some action, clowns and underwater acrobatics you can jump in with the Cape Fur seals at partridge point. The seals are known to be the best and most entertaining dive buddies! As soon as you hit the water you will see them coming up to you with their twirls and front flips and back flips, nibbling at your fins and blowing bubbles at you underwater, they are also known to bark at you underwater. It is an easy dive depending on the conditions, the maximum depth is about 9/10 meters and when you look down there is a whole gully full of anemones, sea urchins and some more fish life. You can also snorkel with the seals which is just as fun and no experience is needed! Usually you will do the kelp forest and the seals combined as a two dive package. The two dive sites are about 15 minutes apart by boat.
There are a number of wrecks on the coastline but I have only explored two of them, the first one is so shallow that you can see it from the shore and you can easily access it from the beach! This one is called The Clan steward wreck, she arrived to Simonstown in 1914 from St Helena and anchored in the bay. The well-known and dreaded South easterly wind picked up and caused the clan steward to drag her anchor. Unable to put another down, or to get the existing anchor to hold fast, she was gradually driven towards the shore where she eventually ran aground.
Today when you go for a dive on the Clan steward you will only see the remains of it as she is much deteriorated and when you look into all of the holes and cracks there is a whole variety of creatures who turned it into their home.
The maximum depth of the Clan Steward is 7 meters, it’s perfect for an easy shore dive! The second wreck is the SAS Pietermaritzburg, she has a really interesting history about her! The ship was commissioned to the royal navy to take part in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in WW2 as the lead ship sweeping mines to make way for the invasion fleet. She was sold to the South African navy in 1947 as a minesweeping and training vessel, this is where she got her name as the SAS Pietermaritzburg. In 1994 she was scuttled by explosive charges to form an artificial reef. Today she lays at a maximum depth of 22meters and as you descend to approach her you can feel the history and stories that was sunk with her. She serves her purpose as an artificial reef well with all of the critters who built a home inside and around her.
Things to know before diving in False Bay
Apart from the dive sites that I mentioned above there are over 20 dive sites to explore in False Bay, from wrecks to big rocks that you can explore, there are beautiful reefs with rocky terrains and you will rarely find a bare rock or reef. Every nook and cranny is decorated with anemones, soft corals, sea stars, and a large variety of sponges. If you can brave the cold you will find yourself in an underwater fairy tale with a hot cup of tea and story sharing waiting for you back at the dive center.
Good to know:
False Bay can get extremely windy, so always try and keep a 2/3 day window open when you want to book a dive.
The diving season is pretty much open all year around but personally I’d suggest you visit during the months of February – June. (Take it from a local)
All of the dive centers have gear rental available but if you’d prefer to take your own wetsuit the suggested thickness is 5/7mm.
Have you been scuba diving in False Bay? What did you love most about it? Let me know in the comments!
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Mona was raised on and in the coast of South Africa, after 6 years of working in the dive industry in Cape Town she decided that it is time to travel and explore new oceans! Apart from working as a dive master she has a love for writing, art, people and telling stories. This is when she started her own blog called Where’s Mona. For the next couple of weeks Mona and her husband will travel to Holland and back to South Africa before starting the diving season on Pico Island in the Azores!
Blog URL : wheresmona.com
Instagram : wheres_mona